I’ve had a few friends visiting Greece recently and the pictures they have been posting on Facebook have literally made me want to lick my computer screen. If I wasn’t already reeling from the costs of a recently European holiday AND home reno’s then I would be on the first flight to Santorini (wouldn’t we all!) In the meantime the new Greek charcoal barbeque restaurant, Odyssey Kitchen, is undoubtedly the next best thing!
MS and I headed down to check it out on Tuesday night since the only plans we had were watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found! We were greeted by the lovely owner Pepi and her husband who have recently moved over here from Greece. After the recent troubles in Greece they decided that they would have a fresh start in Cairns opening Odyssey Kitchen only six weeks ago.
Pepi showed us to our table and I asked her for some recommendations from the menu since it all looked fantastic, we had trouble choosing. The menu is very reasonably priced with nothing over $27. First off Pepi recommended some Mythos Greek beer for MS a glass of Rose for myself. We chose a selection of entree’s and main’s from the menu and waited for our meals to arrive.
For entrée we ordered the Baked Fetta with slices of tomato, onion and capsicum with Greek spices ($11.50) and the Grilled Octopus Tentacle Garnished with Salad ($14). Both MS and I literally swooned over the Baked Feta. It was insanely good and we later found out that Odyssey Kitchen imports their own fetta from Greece. That would explain why the feta that I buy at Coles doesn’t even come close to this stuff!
The Octopus was unbelievably tender and even MS who is notorious for not liking seafood (especially something like Octopus) couldn’t get enough of it.
Our third entrée was the Greek Country Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, Feta, Olives, Capsicum and Capers served with a Greek Version of Croutons ($12). Again the Feta made this dish absolutely sing. Not often does a salad get completely demolished when we go out to dinner together but I can safely say there wasn’t a skerrick left in the bowl when we finished.
It seems that we may have bitten off more than we could chew with our entrees as they were bigger and more filling than we had expected but nevertheless we still had a bit of room for our mains. As we couldn’t make a decision we opted to share the Pastitsio ($18) and the Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit ($27). The Pastitsio is described on the menu as Risoni Pasta Mixed with Feta and Parmesan, Covered with Mince, Topped with Béchamel Sauce and Cooked in a Clay Pot. This dish was rich and creamy with flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg. Basically carb heaven in a clay pot.
The Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit (chosen because, well, all men love bacon don’t they?) was served with salad, chips, pita bread and dip. We had earlier watched the chef cooking the large skewers of meat over the charcoal grill not far from our al fresco table. I let MS consume the majority of the meaty skewer because I was pretty much up to Pussy’s Bow as my dad would say. Could have totally eaten more of that feta though.
And finally there was dessert (I know I just said I was full but no one told me there was dessert)… We tried three off the menu including the Baklava (my favourite), Halva – a semolina sweet filled with dried fruit and nuts dipped in syrup and the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet – yogurt and traditional syrupy sweet made of fruit and sugar. It was a tough contest but the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet was my favourite. It reminded me of a delicious sweet that my mum used to give me when I was a kid.
After all that food Pepi nearly had to roll us out of the restaurant and back to our car. Now I know why they call it a Greek feast! The hospitality and generosity we received from Pepi and her wait staff was some of the best we’ve received in a very long time. From the beer to the baklava at Odyssey Kitchen they are serving up delicious home style Greek cooking at very affordable prices.
Odyssey Kitchen – 41 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 2112
Opening Times: Lunch 11.30am – 3pm, Dinner 17.30 till late (closed Sundays)
True Cairns local’s like myself – or at least ones that have lived in Cairns prior to 2001 – would remember George’s Greek Taverna on the corner of Aplin and Grafton Street. Many a plate was smashed in a furore of music and dancing at George’s over the years. After it was George’s, it was Yanni’s and then finally before closing down last year (or maybe even the year before) it was Adelfia.
I remember going to George’s back in the day many times for dinner. It was always great service, delicious food and there was even the possibility of spotting teenage heart throb Peter Andre (anyone that thinks Mysterious Girl was not an awesome song can kindly escort themselves from this page – that song still rocks).
Unless you read that dubious publication that is the Cairns Life Magazine you probably aren’t aware that George’s has returned to Cairns once again. What was previously long standing Mediterranean and Tapa’s restaurant Casa De Meze upstairs on the esplanade is now Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar (aka the old George’s Greek Taverna).
With my crew in town (and no I don’t mean that like a dance crew, more like sea men haha) and with me being the only local in my crew AND their resident food critic the pressure was on to choose somewhere good for us all to go to dinner. After a bit of a stouche about the previously decided on location, Waterbar and Grill I decided on somewhere that I hadn’t yet been but wanted to try… Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen. It wasn’t Waterbar and Grill that was the problem, lets just say we don’t all get along with our *ahem* esteemed leader.
I booked us a table for 10 for 6.30pm and we all headed down to Yaya’s, minus that one person. We were greeted by the female owner who swiftly showed us to our table all the while giving what must have been a new staff member a bit of a helping hand along the way. The new staff member (a waiter) handed us our menu’s and asked us what we would like to drink. Due to us being ‘dry’ or should I say alcohol free whilst at work (yes dinner was still technically considered work) we ordered a couple of cokes, a lemon lime and bitters and the rest of us had water. From the look of surprise we got from the waiter he must have thought we were from the local AA group or something. I guess it’s not very often they get an entire table of 10 ask for non-alcoholic beverages.
We moved onto the menu’s and after a bit of umming and ahhing we (I) decided on the Sharing Banquet for AU$40 per person. Although the rest of the menu looked delicious we figured the banquet was the best bang for your buck with such a large group plus it encourages a little more interaction amongst the people at the table. Yeah because more interaction is exactly what you need after 2.5 weeks at sea together.
There was a little bit of a wait between us ordering and then getting our first lot of food but after that the meals just kept on coming. First up was the Three Dips with Homemade Bread, Saganaki Cheese, Greek Salad and the Chef’s Choice of Mezedes (small sharing plates).
When I first sat down for dinner I had every intention of ‘going easy’ on the food. That idea was scrapped almost instantly when I spotted the Homemade Bread. It pretty much went downhill from there for me sadly. One thing I simply cannot resist no matter how strong my willpower is fresh, warm bread but I am almost positive I’m not entirely alone on that one. The Three Dips to go with the bread were Tzatziki, Taramosolata and Eggplant. These dips coupled with the crunchy on the outside and warm on the inside homemade bread were way too bloody moorish!
Sometimes I wonder if some of my crew live under a rock because none of them had heard of nor eaten Saganaki Cheese before. But, seriously aside from pork cracking and blue vein cheese it’s got to be one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Squeeze that lemon juice over the top and you’re good to go. My workmates all gushed about it for days afterwards.
After hogging ourselves on cheese, bread, dips and mezedes our empty plates were cleared away to make way for the next course.
The Calamari had a light coating of flour and was pan-fried with lemon and olive oil dressing. It was cooked to perfection and melted in your mouth – exactly the way calamari should be! The Fish of the Day was Swordfish with a balsamic drizzle and again cooked to perfection.
The last dish of this course was the Chargrilled Prawns. They were big and juicy although we only got one each, something that we were all a little disappointed about.
Our third and final savoury course was the Chicken Souvlaki and Yaya’s Arni (Baked Lamb and Potatoes). My personal favourite dish of the evening (other than the homemade bread) was the Baked Lamb and Potatoes. Tender pieces of lamb will do it for me every time.
After all this we were pretty much stuffed but there was still dessert to come. George himself (at least I think his name is George) came out from behind the open kitchen to greet us and thank us for coming as our plates of mixed sweets arrived. He offered to toast our dinner with a small glass of port each, including one for himself, but sadly we all had to decline. Typically the only time that I get an offer of free alcohol is when I can’t have it!
As you may have already guessed my crew and I thoroughly enjoyed our sharing banquet at Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar. The simply presented food is both delightful and plentiful (except the prawns). Post banquet I felt like I might need to be rolled out of there having completely gutsed myself, a far cry from my initial thoughts of ‘just having a small dinner’. If the Sharing Banquet sounds a little too much food to bear then there is also an a la carte menu to choose from with no dish over AU$30. There’s even a funky lounge setting inside for those just looking to enjoy some Mezedes and a cocktail from the bar. At Yaya’s the service is efficient, friendly and a little loud but frankly who doesn’t expect a little yelling with their Greek food. Ah just like old times! Just make sure you get the okay from George before you start smashing the plates.
Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar
Level 1, Corner Aplin St and the Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 3033
Opening Hours: Dinner from 5pm 7 days a week, Lunch on Fridays from 12pm